How to harness the power of collaboration and mastermind your way to global business success




Imagine, if you will, a scenario similar to this:

You are working on foreign assignment. Your ability to speak and understand the language of your host country has been improving steadily.

You are an expert in your field and you know how to lead. Your success at home and your subject matter expertise are two of the main reasons why you are here today – working for your company abroad.

But now you are in another culture and sometimes you feel like a fish out of water. Sometimes, during meetings, you wonder if all of the ‘A players’ on your team really hear what you tell them.

You sense that you are not getting through to some of them. And then there is this moment when you are completely honest with yourself and you remember that back home, your results were better.

So now what?

The conundrum of a success stalemate

Welcome to the conundrum of global business leaders. How many of you work outside of your native culture? And how many of you notice that being efficient when working across cultures has its challenges?

In a typical corporate context, your company will have offered you cultural training around the beginning of your expatriate assignment. Most likely, you will have learned about the “Dos & Don’ts” and business etiquette rules of your destination.

Most organizations fully understand the value of preparing expats for the behavioral standards in foreign work environments. After all, the success of overseas business often depends on how well team members are able to cross cultures.

And chances are, you remember many of those “101 rules for XZY Country” and they’ve been helpful to avoid some major faux pas.

And yet you realize that your success rate just isn’t what you expected it to be.

Senior executives, C-suite members, and other business leaders are typically well qualified and talented high performers. However, the challenges of global leadership and change can’t be solved with only knowledge and hard skills.

Harness the power of collaborative problem-solving

Yes, cultural training, in connection with leadership coaching and mentoring, is an effective tool to build and grow cultural savvy. However, in many years of cross-cultural practice, I have found that the most sustainable and dramatic solution for expanding the skills and acumen of global business leaders is being a part of a mastermind group.

Masterminds have become quite the rage in recent years, and ever since I joined my first group I realized how powerful they are as a people development strategy.

In fact, they completely changed the way I work on my business. In his 1937 world bestseller “Think and Grow Rich,” Napoleon Hill describes the nature of a mastermind as:

the coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose.

Hill didn’t invent this concept. It may be as old as mankind, and Western cultures have been using the power of the mastermind since Plato and Socrates.

In today’s corporate context, masterminds morphed into Boards of Directors and executive teams. Unfortunately, the structure of modern business has robbed the idea of many of its original benefits. That’s why smart global leaders are reviving the pure mastermind concept.

Recruit the right minds

Most of you may be familiar with the phrase:

If you are always the smartest person in the room, it is time to change the room.

Ideally, a mastermind group is what I call the “higher room,” the environment that supports growth – both personally and professionally.

There are three types of purposes for a mastermind group:

1. A group of people come together for the purpose of one outcome or one business

2. A group of people that are all in the same industry trying to overcome or solve a common problem in that industry

3. Or, a group of people from different industries helping individuals with different or similar issues

In order to utilize the power of the mastermind for global leaders, I found that a hybrid of types 1 and 3 is the most productive.

The goal for the group is the development of cultural competence and global business success. Ideally, this will be achieved if the members come from different industries and diverse backgrounds.

Some qualities to look for in a participant include: similar drive and commitment, diverse skill sets, and problem solvers.

Avoid getting sidetracked from your mission

Now, let’s look at what a mastermind is not:

• It’s not a training class. While groups may decide to bring in guest speakers and experts, the main focus of a mastermind is the brainstorming and accountability support among the group members.

• It’s not group coaching. Mastermind groups are about the members sharing with each other, not about the facilitator coaching individuals in a group setting. There should be feedback, advice, and support from everyone.

• It’s not a networking group. While you may share leads and resources with each other, that should not be main focus of the meetings. However, through your connections with other members, you will find plenty of joint venture opportunities, lead sharing, and professional networking.

Make no mistake, effective masterminds aren’t simply social clubs. It takes an experienced facilitator and a strong context or group code of honor to make the group work.

There needs to be mandatory participation by every member. The group will have a clear meeting structure which offers a combination of brainstorming, education, peer accountability and support in a confidential group setting to sharpen the members’ business and personal skills.

Participants challenge each other to set powerful goals, and more importantly, to accomplish them. Members act as catalysts for growth, devil’s advocates and supportive colleagues.

This is the essence and the value of a mastermind. Now find yours!

Have you tried brainstorming with your global business peers? If so, have you found success or challenges in masterminding for your business?

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the contributing author, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forum for International Trade Training.

About the author

Author: Christian Hoferle

Christian Höferle is a cross-cultural business consultant who has extensive experience in working with multinational companies. German by birth, U.S.-American by choice, and Bavarian at heart, Christian is a fan of building bridges and not enthusiastic about walls. With his company, The Culture Mastery LLC, he helps people in closing the gaps between their home culture and the target culture they are working with.

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